The opal is not the solitary object of worship in Coober Pedy, as can be seen by the diversity of churches in town: Serbian Orthodox Church, Anglican Catacomb Church, Saint Peter & Paul’s Catholic Church and the St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church (the only above ground in this bunch).

Dispensing divinity in the outback, however, has specific trials.

“The priests who have been here get serious respect from other priests,” says Father Brian Mathews from the underground Saint Peter & Paul’s Catholic Church.

“It’s definitely the toughest parish in the diocese. And the relationship between the churches here is, well, complicated.”

Presiding over a subterranean church that often has more tourists than parishioners is a novelty not lost on Father Mathews, now in his second year here.

“It’s vastly, vastly different to anything I’ve done before, but we still get a good crowd here on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. About 70 turn up to the service sometimes.”

The peaceful, once multi-denominational space seems like the perfect spot to reflect on life and bigger things, such as the size of Father Brian’s ‘bush run’, which has a catchment bigger than Texas, extending to the WA border and Birdsville.

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